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Thursday, September 1, 2011

Reinventing The Catholic Women’s College

Many of the country's most powerful women went to Trinity College outside of D.C., including Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. (AP)

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius (left) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi both attended Trinity Washington University. (AP)

What is it about the small, little-known Trinity Washington University outside of D.C.? Many of the country’s most powerful women went there, including Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.

The Catholic women’s college was founded in 1897 by a group of nuns dedicated to the education of women at a time when Catholic women who wanted to go to college faced two obstacles. First, sending young women to college was deeply controversial among Catholics. Second, Catholics, men and women, faced widespread prejudice at mainstream institutions.

Trinity quickly became the college of choice for daughters of prominent liberal Catholic families, but as American culture changed over the last two generations, it joined the long list of women’s colleges in sharp decline.

Pat McGuire, president (and alumna) of Trinity Washington University told Here & Now‘s Robin Young, that her college re-invented itself by returning to its radical mission, a college “for women who could not have access to higher education.”

Trinity’s student body is majority African American, with many students from under-served areas of Washington, DC.

This fall, Trinity is enrolling more than 1,000 women in its historic women’s college – the largest enrollment in Trinity’s history. Overall enrollment is at an all-time high of more than 2,600 students.


  • Pat McGuire, president of Trinity Washington University and graduate of the class of 1974

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